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How to get a nag-free Garmin GPS experience

Garmin nuvi 260W

This page is only for the nerdy GPS user. It's probably true hardly anyone will see this, but I'm putting it here anyway for the few of you out there that absolutely hate modern Garmin standalone GPSes and just want something 100% free of nanny nags.

Other than the very specific Garmin models I mention below, there is no modern Garmin GPS that is nag-free. All the nags are there on a system level and there is absolutely no way to get rid of them. You'll just have to get used to it with any new model available. That's just the way it is.

The GPS above is a late model Garmin nuvi 260W. You specifically have to seek one out with a serial number on a white sticker starting with 1G. That later version allows the 260 to be upgraded to have most features of the 2x5 models. It's also a model that can accept a memory card up to 32GB in size, whereas the older gray sticker serial models do not.

Of every single automotive model Garmin ever made, only the late generation 2x0 models are 100% nag-free that are actually usable.

"Usable" defined

Usable means the GPS acquires a signal quickly and accepts up to a 32GB memory card. While I would absolutely love to use the older StreetPilot 2720 model, that unit does not have any ability to upgrade its memory capacity at all, and takes a long time to acquire a signal.

The 2x0 series also can all accept direct GPS coordinate data, which is something none of the StreetPilot c3xx or c5xx models can do.

With the 2x0, you get everything you need and nothing you don't.

The one thing you'll miss but will have to get used to it

The 2x0 was made at a time before on-screen speed limits were introduced. HOWEVER, that is what makes the 2x0 series 100% nanny nag free.

What are nanny nags?

On-screen and/or audible alerts billed as "safety features" that do nothing but distract you while driving.

The first nanny nag was introduced with a firmware update affecting almost every model ending with a 5 back in August 2010. When you go over the speed limit while driving, the speed number turns red. Once there, it's impossible to shut it off whenever over the limit. You are not given a choice. That nanny nag is now there permanently. Every single time you go even 1 mile over the limit, the red number nag appears. Every model released since that time has that nanny nag built in.

At the time I write this, I'm using a DriveAssist 51 LMT-S model, and it is chock full of nags galore. In addition to the red over-limit speed indicator that never went away, now it has orange animated banners at the top of the screen for railroad tracks, curved road ahead, school zones and more. And it can't be turned off. Not possible. The best you can do is disable the tones, uncheck every alert possible, turn off Foursquare maps, turn off Parkopedia maps, and so on...

...but even with every single frickin' driver alert disabled, there are still alerts. They are always there.

Oh, but wait, it gets better. The voice now has "Real Directions", so instead of telling you "Turn right on Main Street", the unit now says "Turn right at the traffic light". Yes, Garmin actually went backwards with their directions. Instead of the voice giving you useful information telling you the street to turn to, now the voice gives you landmarks to look for periodically.

Sound good? It's not. Sometimes it will say to "turn right at the Shell" (gas station). Well, guess what, sometimes gas stations change company names and other times they just outright close. This invites incorrect directions galore over time.

Another nanny nag is Junction View. This has always been a bad idea because the entire map changes and distracts you while traveling highways and interstates. However, if you still want that, there's another option beside the 2x0 series. Keep reading.

Your 2x0 choices

You can use any 2x0 you want provided it has a white sticker serial number starting with 1G.

These are the models:

If you want a QWERTY keyboard and a text-to-speech voice, get the 260W, that's a 4.3" model. If you're okay with an ABCDE keyboard, get the 260.

If you don't care about the TTS voice and want something more compact, get any of the above models not ending in W.

Updating maps

Use OSM.

If you absolutely have to have Junction View and a speed limit indicator...

...you'll have to deal with the speed limit nanny nag. There's no way around it. If you're okay with that, these are the best 3 models because they have the best screens:

My suggestion is to go with a 5.0" model unless space is a concern.

The map upgrading process is exactly the same as the 2x0, with the only difference being the map setting location, which is Settings > Map > Info.

Four more advantages of using a 2x0

No dopey menu animations

Nothing fades or slides into view when going from menu to menu. The interface is quick, simple and very efficient. This cannot be said for the 1490, 40 and 50 however as those have dopey sliding/fading menu crapola.

A 2D mode that actually works right

The 2D mode in the 1490/40/50 is worthless and has been that way ever since. What Garmin did is make the navigation map arrow very skinny for some ridiculous reason. The 2x0 on the other hand has a 2D map arrow that is thick and gets thicker on zoom when approaching a turn or destination. It works perfectly.

OFF means OFF

When you turn off a 2x0, it is truly off and not in "standby" mode sucking away battery life.

Genuinely good battery life

If the battery in your 2x0 is good or you replace it with a new one, the battery lasts up to 5 hours.

Remember that DriveAssist 51 I mentioned above? It doesn't last 30 minutes - and that's normal.

Tips on best use of a 2x0

Use Normal instead of Most for map detail

In my experience, using Most will clutter up the map rather than aid in direction. Normal has less clutter and also gives the 2x0 a slight performance advantage because it has less to draw on screen.

Remember that the vehicle icon can be pressed to quick-save a waypoint

Most people forget this part, but you can tap the vehicle icon at any time to quick-save a Favorite.

Learn how to use GPS coordinates and love it

Seasoned GPS users know that the best way to get anywhere is to use direct coordinates, and of course the 2x0 can certainly accept it.

The best coordinate format to use is h ddd.ddddd since those are the easiest to get from Google Maps while planning a trip.

Why use coordinates? Because it works no matter how old the maps are in your Garmin. Coordinates never change.

Not that I would suggest doing this, but you can use a 2x0 map-less. Set the route preference to Off Road, enter in the coordinates you want to get to, and the nuvi will draw a straight line from where you are to the destination coordinates, just like a trail GPS. All you have to do is go in the direction of that arrow as best you can, and you'll eventually get there.

If you like the 2x0, buy two

It's January 2019 as I write this, and at the moment there are many Garmin nuvi 2x0 models for sale on both Amazon and eBay. I've seen ones in good condition sell for as little as $13 shipped.

These things are considered obsolete, disposable and not collectible since smartphones are mainly used for navigation these days. This is a good thing because it keeps the 2x0 nuvis nice and cheap. But that obviously won't last forever.

The only reason I use the DriveAssist 51 now is because of its built-in dashcam. Once I get a suitable separate replacement dashcam, I can then switch back to a 2x0 and once again have a nag-free GPS.

Yes, I am willing to have two things plugged in, the 2x0 and a separate dashcam, just to get a nag-free GPS back. I miss it that much.

Is it worth it?

The 2x0 is cheap, but is it worth the time to set one up?

I can only answer that with a question.

Is a nag-free GPS valuable to you?

If you answered yes, get a 2x0 and drive happy.

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